Turkish police use aggressive force against citizens of Istanbul on the anniversary of Occupy Gezi (31Mayıs 2014)
Aside Posted on Updated on
31 May 2014- the one year anniversary of the occupy Gezi Park movement.
Unlike the scene one year ago in Taksim Square, the government was prepared for demonstrations. The prime minister of Turkey took massive precautions by maximizing his force by flexing his muscles- his police force. Prime Minister Erdoğan announced a public warning on Friday that he gave strict orders to his security forces and anyone not corresponding to his imposed fear by staying home will face the consequences. Erdoğan closed the roads as well as stopped all public transportation on Saturday to block access to Taksim Square. This complete shutdown of transportation (including all ferry services and the Bosphorus bridge) disconnected the city’s two continents and separated the city into two isolated halves.
he Turkish prime minister applied the same tactics on both halves of the city, but focused more attention towards the European side in which contains the infamous Gezi Park. All over Istanbul, P.M. Erdoğan deployed more than 25,000 police officers, 50 TOMA water cannons, as well as stronger tear gas all in an attempt to stop demonstrators from gathering in Turkey’s commercial capitol.
Most of the action took place on the European side, focused on Taksim- the heart of the Gezi movement. Due to the severe precautions taken by Turkish authorities, Taksim Square was not a battlefield mirroring last year’s successful energy but, rather, it was a territory occupied by the government’s armed men which highlighted the unresolved tensions that has continued to build among Turkish citizens’ dissatisfaction with the actions, policies, and attitudes of the government. The objective of the protestors on the anniversary was peaceful- to simply place flowers in Gezi Park to commemorate all the events that have taken place since the initial protests one year ago as well as to pay tribute to those individuals that lost their lives in the battle against the authoritarian ruling paradigm. The acting authorities and police played a strong defensive position to maintain their guard and occupation of the symbolic park. While the protestors all over the city were executing their traditional methods of displaying their dissatisfaction with the AKP government chanting by “her yer Taksim, her yer direniş” (translation: everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance) and banging pots and pans with kitchen utensils, the police responded harshly by firing tear-gas canisters and spraying water cannons to disassemble the demonstration.
While the defensive mode and corresponding tactics of Turkish security forces were uniform in all neighbourhoods in Istanbul, the protest in Kadıköy (the center of the half of the city that resides of the Asian continent) was much different from its sister demonstration in Taksim. Like most of the anti-government protests occurring in Kadıköy, the crowd of protestors was significantly smaller but was much more aggressive. Throughout the afternoon and night, there were highs and lows. Earlier in the evening, police made a preempted strike with tear gas by attacking locals attempting to enjoy their Saturday evening to scare them into going home and clearing the streets. Later, protestors marched down Moda Caddesi and met at the Kadıköy Boğa and continued to initiate attention and hostility from the police by vandalising public property, burning garbage, yelling as well as making fun of Erdoğan and his police muscle, and banging on everything that was metal. As well as their attempts at directly trying to intimidate the police, other demonstrators made attempts to rally more people by open firing live rounds on Sakız Gülü Sokak- one of the main streets in Kadıköy filled with popular cafes, bars, restaurants, and cinemas. Still, with the preparations and strictly implemented government orders as well as the oppositional forces being greatly outnumbered, the one year marker of Gezi was quieter than other anti-government protests.
Despite one year’s worth of anti-government demonstrations, six deaths, countless injuries and endless violence, Turkey continues to be dominated and corrupted by Erdoğan’s authoritarian regime. After one year of demonstrations and violence without even a slight budge from the religious conservative prime minister, one must ask: is there still hope that the many dissatisfied Turkish citizens will see their desired change?
Since the protests regarding the corruption and anti-corruption scandals that encompassed both the dismissal of key alliance figures of the AKP as well as suspicious transactions between P.M. Erdoğan and his son, Turkey has remained rather dormant with occasional murmurs occurring around the Berkin Elvin tragedy, the local elections, and May Day. Recent events have produced another set of hiccups in a quietly tense yet seemingly unactive context that emit glimpses into the true political dissatisfaction of many Turkish citizens as the one year anniversary of the Gezi Park movement approaches.
On 13 May, another tragedy occurred at the mines of Soma- a town 230 south west of İstanbul. As of current, the casualty toll is expected to pass 300 with 18 people still missing which has turned this accident into the worst mining tragedy in the history of Turkey. The reaction of the nation has shown the citizens to respond with profound sadness as they have gathered with candle light vigils as well as a nation-wide mourning period where bars, clubs,and restaurants have closed early which has transformed the chaotic, loud night life of İstanbul into an empty, eerie streets resembling an abandoned ghost town.
Coexisting with this time of mourning has been a critical, disapproval with the reaction of the prime minister to the situation. His initial statement regarding the disaster was that “these things are common“ which sparked outrage among citizens as the death toll continues to rise, These emotions add more flame to a deeper hostility towards the fire of the overall dissatisfaction with the extremely powerful political party and has triggered about round of protests- the biggest ones being in the capital, Ankara, and in the various districts of İstanbul.
As both the one year anniversary of Gezi Park approaches and the presidential elections draw near, it will be interesting to see what will become of the intensifying dissatisfaction of the people of Turkey with their government.
Allow me to be blunt-
I’m nineteen years old, this concept of age is in terms of maturity but this number is true. I write, this much is true too. It has been only a short while since I have been admitted as an objective spectator to the events unravelling in Turkey.
Almost everything else in this scene is ambiguous and invented.
Invented, yes, but not playfully. This is most certainly not a game, especially to me. It’s a form: as I invent myself, even now as I write, I’m thinking of all I want to tell in regards to why this blog is written as it is- carefully constructed and selective. Par example, I want to tell you this: a few days ago, I watched a dog die after being struck by a tear gas canister on Kadıköy Haydarpaşa Rıhtım Caddesi on my way home. I did not kill him, but I did not do anything either. I was present, and my presence stained me with guilt just the same.
I remember his face- this withered creature, hardened by the streets, stared at me with one icy, lifeless eye. His face, not as friendly nor pleasant as that of a pet, burned into my memory. Yes, I remember his face because his jaw was in his throat. I remember being overcome by the sickness of both disgust and heartache. I felt the burden of responsibility and was instantly overcome with undescribeable grief. I blamed myself. Justifiably so, I feel, because I was present.
But, let me interrupt with more bluntness, perhaps even that story is fiction. No?
I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to understand that sometimes ficticious truths are more real and true than those in reality.
It is true- I am nineteen years old, I do indeed write, and I am living in Turkey. Here, in Istanbul with a population of 14 million, there are many people. People, like me, with bodies, faces, thoughts, dreams, desires- there are real bodies with real faces. I may be young now, but I am not afraid to look. Looking or not, I do feel both faceless responsibility and faceless grief- or don’t I?
Perhaps it is also true- He was a bony, dead, rugged, and was aged to be of about twenty years. He lay in the middle of the street with trash and debris. I could see his jaw in his throat. One eye was was abnormally wide- forced open. The other eye was a gashed, bleeding hole, marking the strike of the blow. He wasn’t a dog.
I feel as if a story can make certain unidentifiable, uncomprehendable ideas present.
I can look at things I never looked at; I can make you believe.
I can paint faces and apply them to these emotions- to grief, love and pity.
I can be brave.
I can face the suppressed and the faceless.
I can make myself feel again.
I can believe, too.